Sunday, November 29, 2015

EMC Seafood and Cambodian Hot Sauces - Sea Change Coming to Suburbia?

The tide of rising-quality-food-venues has been moving north in LA, as seen most particularly in Top Chefs / chefs from Michelin-starred kitchens setting up in Studio City and Sherman Oaks in recent years.

So I was excited to see the upgrading of dining in shopping complexes, like at Westfield Century City and The Americana at Brand, to offer affordable good food was hitting the SFV as well, namely at one of my new favorite shop/dine/play spots - The Village at Westfield Topanga with EMC Seafood.

EMC Seafood's first location is a highly successful and popular one in Koreatown.  That location is attached to the City Center Mall - a shop/dine/play complex with good foot traffic due to a giant Korean supermarket, cute beauty and novelty shops, and a top floor of entertainment / fitness from a karaoke bar/club to a korean spa that also features a gym.

Smart play to replicate the new-school-mall-based strategy in Woodland Hills, a sprawling suburb in need of better quality dining venues - especially seafood with a dash of excitement - a psuedo-blue ocean strategy localized edition, if you will (irony intended).

I LOVE the set up and vibe, actually much more chill than the one in Ktown.  There is a mostly al fresco seating plan (with a few tables under a 3-walled, glass roofed area), including a lovely raw bar where you can slurp down oysters, clams and take down fresh shellfish while enjoying a glass of local wine under the gorgeous SoCal sunshine pretty much year round.  On a November day, after putting in my pre-meal burn time at YogaWorks (newly opened on the 2nd floor) - I had a beautiful Sea Urchin in one of the most simply artful presentations of the creature I've seen in the city.

(And yes, I also may have a #foodporn bias for this location thanks to the gorgeous natural lighting that makes even iPhone photos look much better)

Then I double-downed with the decadent Uni Pasta ($21) with Cream, Fish Roe, Chives, Dried Seaweed.  I was in Sea Urchin umami / carb heaven between the two dishes.

It may not be destination dining for those who already live ocean-side - but it's another fantastic option for those who don't.

Hoping that the local community will support and sustain it - so far since its opening in September, looks like there has been a solid turnout.

And, foodie-night-owls-in-the-SFV take note: this location of EMC Seafood is also open for late night dining (til 2am, daily)!  Now there is an actual tasty option beyond corporate chains, and an alternative to 24 hour diners!

So, although foot traffic to OG malls have been declining, I'm a big fan of the NEW complexes that make it convenient for you to spend the day doing the key things you need to get done without needing to fight LA traffic.

For me, that's usually: work out, eat, food / juice shop, and the occasional bit of clothing / accessories / beauty shopping.

You can do all this at The Village: YogaWorks is there as I mentioned, 24 Hour Fitness too if you're into that, and FlyWheel is coming soon; Burke Williams spa if you feel like splurging; EMC is there now, GoGreek yogurt, and there are other restaurant options I have yet to try; quite a few small chain / boutique shops (big chain stores if needed are just across the street like Nordstrom), Pressed Juicery, and then Costco for your grocery / home needs.

BUT ON TOP OF ALL THAT:  they also host a Farmers Market every Sunday from 9am-1pm!

It spans about 2 blocks in the parking lot by Pressed Juicery, and beyond local produce vendors, they also have a fresh fish stall, artisanal Breadbar, and the fantastic Vagabond Cheese stall who is very generous with samples and with sharing knowledge about cheeses and meats (Lactaid is even offered in consideration of those who neeed it)!  They carry some great gourmet selections of both, including moliterno truffle cheese, iberico bellota underloin, and white truffle salami made with berkshire pork.

The one stall I was very surprised (and delighted) to find was Yeak Inc. Cambodian hot sauces ($8/ bottle) - definitely not something I would have expected in a mall farmers market in this part of town!

The local, handmade, small batch sauces on offer include: 
Krahom (red) made with Tien Tsin Chilies & Charred Garlic, Baithong (green) made with roasted seasonal green chilies and garlic charred and blended with palm sugar, vinegar and touch of fish sauce, and Kmao (black) made with dried Bird's Eye chile and Tien Tsin chilies wok-fried with garlic, that will set your mouth on fire, and still make you come back for more with its complex and nuanced flavors.  Each is recommended to go with anything from eggs, breakfast burritos, fried rice, grilled steak, roasted chicken to crawfish tails to oysters to dim sum and potato chips.

In addition to the hot sauces, Yeak also offers seasonal pickled chiles called Chruk, which I will need to try next time.

The two-person team behind these tasty sauces are passionate about sharing culture through food, and that's the beauty of the farmers market setting, that you get to chat with them about their heartfelt project! (If you don't live in the area or can't make it over there, some of their products are available for sale online)

I anticipate that we'll be seeing a lot more of and about these sauces in the food world - will be rooting you guys on, Melinda and Allen!

On the way back, along the row of shops next to the Farmers Market, I noticed a charming shop called Bitter Root Pottery, which was advertising classes for just $35 a person.

Exciting for another fun activity to do at The Village.  Sadly, though, I noticed on closer inspection that the classes are only on weekdays.  Hoping that they will offer weekend options soon for those of us who are not independently wealthy, self-employed or HousewivesTM, but actually holding down full-time jobs during the week.

All in all though, a big fan of the changes afoot on this side of the city, and hoping the shop/dine/play concept with local small businesses mixed in will catch and spread within the SFV.  But this is a solid start - sometimes, it just takes The Village.


EMC Seafood & Raw Bar
6252 Topanga Canyon Blvd. #1695 (Inside The Village at Westfield Topanga)
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
Ph: 818.704.1899
(Other location: 3500 W. 6th St #101, Los Angeles, CA 90020. Ph: 213 351 9988)

Parking: in mall parking structure

Farmers Market at The Village at Westfield Topanga
Sundays 9am-1pm 

Yeak, Inc.


Vagabond Cheese


Not food, still delicious:
6256 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Woodland Hills, CA 91367  
Ph: 818.337.3571
New users get a free week here.


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